Flaggs: Trip to L.A. ‘very productive’

Published 7:56 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2019

“Very productive,” were the words Mayor George Flaggs Jr. used to describe a Monday trip to Los Angeles, California, to look at examples for potential development in Vicksburg.

Flaggs met Monday with developer Tim Cantwell and the executive staff of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, a private non-profit organization founded as an economic development initiative by the City of Los Angeles and its Department of Water & Power.

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During his visit, Flaggs visited an economic incubator similar to the program proposed for the Mississippi Hardware building on Mulberry Street, and looked at developments that could be adapted for the Kuhn Memorial Hospital property.

Developers involved with the Mississippi Hardware building renovations unveiled plans in August 2017 for a $19 million project to convert the former garment factory and hardware building on Mulberry Street into a multi-floor innovation and tech transfer center to serve the Vicksburg area and the central Mississippi region.

Influenced by the presence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Army’s Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, the hardware building development is expected to create a space to attract small and middle-sized businesses that could potentially work in federal-type programs.

Proposed plans for the building include a center for entrepreneurship and for training, and the relocation of the Mississippi State University graduate program from ERDC to the Mississippi Hardware Building.

The building will also house small business commercialization offices, offices for the Warren County Port Authority and a manufacturing brewery, outside beer garden and a cafe.

“I can see where this incubator can be the biggest game changer, not only for the city of Vicksburg, but for the western part of the state, and I can envision it being much bigger,” Flaggs said of his tour of the incubator in Los Angeles.

“I walked a way with a feeling that this could actually be bigger than anything that happened in the city of Vicksburg, including the sports complex. It’s bigger than the sports complex in terms of the number of people it can employ and the service it can provide.

“Now I have some knowledge of how it should be structured,” Flaggs said, adding he wants to tour a defense complex in Las Vegas, Nevada, to look at other ideas.

He said the incubator in Los Angeles had state and federal funds involved in it.

“We’ve got state and local funds, now,” Flaggs said. “I think it is a great public and private partnership structure.”

The city has committed $300,000 to the Hardware Building project, and $2.5 million in state funds are from the state’s BP settlement fund.

Ideas for Kuhn property

Flaggs also looked at housing and developments that may be built on the Kuhn Memorial property.

The board in 2016 accepted an urban renewal plan that envisioned a community with indoor and outdoor recreation facilities including tennis and racquetball courts and gymnasium, and a residential area of single-family homes, townhouses and homes for senior citizens. Flaggs said he still wants to follow a mixed-use plan with residential, retail an commercial buildings.

“I saw some great models we could use, but that would depend on the developer and what they would want to do,” he said. “I think it’s going to be another game changer for the central north ward of the city. We’re going to have to get some RFQs (request for quotes). We want people to come up with some proposals.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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